For some people, playing games is an integral part of using a PC. Today I set out to see how the iPad fares as a gaming platform, and find out that whether or not the iPad has what it takes to go head-to-head with a PC when it comes to playing games.
I have a decent number of games on my iPad. I have a folder called Games that is maxed out at 20 apps, and I have a couple stragglers that don’t fit in that folder, but I haven’t gotten around to coming up with a new system to organize beyond the first 20. Then, I have a few games that my daughter likes to play that are tucked away in a separate folder just for her apps.
I have some classic games–like Tetris and Pac-Man, as well as Atari’s Greatest Hits. I have some more cerebral games like chess, the New York Times crosswords, and Words with Friends HD. I have blockbuster mobile games like Angry Birds HD (actually Angry Birds HD, Angry Birds Seasons HD, and Angry Birds Rio HD). I have sports games like Madden 11 HD and Tiger Woods Golf HD. Suffice it to say, if I have a few minutes to spare, I can find a way to entertain myself–and that’s not even counting the 17 books sitting in my Kindle app.
You might notice the ‘HD’ coming up a lot. Many developers use that as a way to differentiate between the iPhone and iPad versions of the same app. So, on my iPhone I have Angry Birds, Words with Friends, and Madden 11, but on the iPad I have the HD equivalents. As I have explained in previous 30 Days With the iPad posts, I am not a fan of iPhone apps on the iPad, which is why I don’t have one of my favorite games–Hanging with Friends–on the iPad. When Zynga gets on the ball and creates the HD version, I’ll be one of the first to jump on it.
Some games–like Gears–are uniquely suited for the iPad because it uses the accelerometer and gyroscope to control motion. The premise of the game is to steer a ball through a challenging maze by tilting the iPad. It is also possible to play Pac-Man using the iPad to steer (but I don’t recommend it). Meanwhile, though, games that were meant for PCs or consoles have to come up with creative ways to use the iPad touchscreen interface to emulate or replace actions normally done with a controller.
It is nice to have thousands upon thousands of games to choose from, and it is great to be able to play favorites from PC and console gaming like Dead Space. But, as fun as it is to play on the iPad, a game like Dead Space loses something without the controller. I play it when I am in the mood for some first-person shooter action and I am away from home, but I would never choose to play on the iPad over the PC or Xbox 360 if I were home.
For old school classics like the collection in Atari’s Greatest Hits, you can get the iCade. It is a dock for the iPad that basically turns the iPad into a display for a mini-arcade console and lets you play the games the way they were meant to be played–with a joystick and physical buttons. But, that is an extra $100 and it’s not very portable.
Game developers recognize the iPad as a lucrative platform, and more games are being developed specifically for the Apple tablet. Minecraft for iPad is in the works, and there are games like Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard HD, or Rock Band Reloaded for iPad, and N.O.V.A. 2–Near Orbit Vanuard Alliance HD that bring big budget, high profile games to the iPad.
As great as the iPad is as a gaming platform in and of itself, it still can’t play many of the cutting edge games that gamers really want. There is no Portal 2, or Halo Reach, and even if there were it wouldn’t be the same. Ultimately, the iPad can not replace a PC for real gaming. Hardcore, or even avid, or moderate gamers need more power and flexibility than the iPad has to offer.